American right back Shaq Moore has been one of the surprise stories to emerge out of the USMNT player pool in recent months. The Florida native has seen action in the first team with Levante in La Liga, even starting a match against Lionel Messi in the team’s match against Barcelona in January. At 20 years old, the risk he took as a teenager to move to Spain and try to prove himself at the highest level has been challenging but Moore hopes that it will pay off.
He discussed his goals and work toward playing with the U.S. Men’s National Team with ESPN recently. The publication reported that he’s focusing on improving his game, saying “I want to focus on getting better every day here with Levante and hopefully the national team will come. Maybe sooner, maybe later, but I know if I’m patient, it will come.”
Moore is one of an emerging number of young American players who have turned their backs on potential MLS homegrown contracts to play in Europe. Josh Sargent made the move to Europe as well, electing to stay with his club team in the US until he was 18 in accordance with European Union labor laws rather than sign with a team in the domestic league.
In discussing his decision to come to Europe rather than fight for a spot on an MLS team, the youngster said, “It was kind of a big jump, especially because it wasn’t one of the biggest clubs, so there was a lot of risk, something that I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do. But I was like, ‘You know what? It’s a risk I’ll take.’”
The right back hasn’t appeared with the team since the end of January, but is committed to staying in Spain and trying to become a regular starter in La Liga. Moore commented that the challenge he has undertaken has moved him outside of his comfort level, not that “If you can make it in La Liga, then maybe you can play anywhere in the world. In the U.S., maybe I would have been too comfortable coming from the youth teams and coming up. I just wanted to fight it out with the best.”
Moore’s showing against Messi and chance to train with a team in a top league in the world is one that wouldn’t be available to him had he stayed in MLS. While he is having to fight for playing time, nothing is guaranteed and with the reputation the MLS has for not giving promising young players time on field, it is entirely possible that Moore would be in the same situation had signed with FC Dallas. Whether or not his quest to represent the USMNT is fulfilled sooner rather than later will be known in a few short weeks as the USMNT prepares to play a friendly against Paraguay on March 27th in Cary, North Carolina.